The Ontario government has announced several new initiatives aimed at improving student learning in the wake of low and failing scores on the most recent province-wide math tests.

Minister of Education Stephen Lecce said the EQAO (Education Quality and Accountability Office) results for 2021-2022 highlight the need to keep Ontario students in the classroom without interruption, with a special focus on catching up in math, reading and writing.

The latest EQAO test results show that only 47 per cent of Ontario’s Grade 6 students are meeting the provincial standard in math. As well, only 59 percent of Grade 3 students and 52 per cent of Grade 9 students are meeting the standard.

Reading and writing scores for Grade 3 students also declined compared to 2018. However, they remained roughly the same for students in Grade 6.

On Thursday, Lecce announced that the province would be moving forward with the next steps of “Ontario’s Plan to Catch Up”, which includes a $365 million investment in financial relief for parents to pay for additional tutoring supports, supplies, or equipment that enhance student learning.

The minister said parents with school-aged children up to 18 years old can apply for payments of $200 for each child, while parents with school-aged children with special education needs, up to the age of 21, can apply for $250. Applications for “Catch Up Payments” can be submitted online until March 31, 2023.

As well, the province will be deploying “Math Action Teams” to underperforming school boards that will identify and recommend short-term and long-term responses to improve math teaching practices.

“We must keep students in class without disruption, with a focus on catching up on the fundamentals – reading, writing and math – after two years of pandemic-related learning disruptions,” Lecce said in a news release. “These strategic investments and initiatives will further help Ontario students get back on track and prepare them for success in the future – both inside and outside the classroom.”

Other initiatives announced on Thursday included new digital resources to support parents and students, extending a $175 million tutoring support program, and attendance supports for struggling students.